Empty container moves rise 20 per cent

Empty container rises 20 per cent

Sea-Intelligence has reported a steady 20 per cent increase in empty container volumes in recent months compared to 2019 – excluding pandemic fluctuations.

The firm has estimated empty container movements to investigate how expanding trade imbalances affected the effort required for empty container repositioning.

Alan Murphy, CEO of Sea-Intelligence, said: “While assessing volume just in TEU terms might be an acceptable gauge for market behaviour, as the operational expenses associated with empty movements are primarily tied to port handling costs, it can be argued that TEU* Miles is a superior measure because it is the best metric for full containers.

“This is because the distance travelled is important for assessing container demand, and it may look incongruous if we do not measure empties in the same way.”

READ: Stabilised container demand averts June collapse

© Sea-Intelligence

Essentially, the development when measuring empty movements by TEU* Miles is no different than measuring in TEU. Sea-Intelligence has posed the question of how this correlates with the increase in full containers.

Global TEU had grown 2.5 per cent compared to 2019, and 4.2 per cent in TEU Miles. On solely the head-haul trades, TEU growth was 7.8 per cent in December 2023 compared to 2019, and TEU Miles growth was 8 per cent.

READ: Container market shows 6 per cent deficit

Back-haul trades have expanded 2 and a half times faster than full container sales, indicating a large increase in the need for empty containers.

This means that the actual expenses of carrying head-haul containers have increased, reported Sea-Intelligence, and head-haul shippers will have to cover the growing cost of moving empty containers in the future.

In February, Sea-Intelligence assessed the possible effect of the Red Sea crisis in 2024 after reworking liner networks to employ round-of-Africa routing.

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